Today, Coach Kevin Kearns is a role model for school kids and a top-rated MMA coach and world master fitness trainer. But this was hard won success. His early years were fraught with bullying. He was small and not at all athletic. His father died at the time he needed him most. Martial arts and fitness too Kevin in a new direction of self-discovery and built a character that has become so solid it he is much sought after to talk at schools and for anti-bullying groups, and is picked by top athletes to coach them.
Tambuli Media publisher, Dr. Mark Wiley, met Kevin Kearns 20 years ago while living in Boston and working for another publishing house. They connected and built a friendship and share relationship. Mark trained Kevin in Eskrima Filipino martial arts and Kevin became Mark’s personal trainer. Today they remain good friends and through Tambuli Media coach Kevin Kearns had a path forward to share his unique story and anti-bullying story. The book is called Always Picked Last.
The new Tambuli edition is a much revised and expanded version of the original self-publishing effort. Even those who have the first edition need to get a copy of the second; it is that much more impressive and heartfelt and has a useful section on how to implement anti-bullying skills and techniques for kids, teachers and parents.
Most authors write in order to tell a story that is bottled up inside – whether it is fiction or not. In many cases, the story they need to tell is some version of their own life, because they believe that it will be interesting, helpful, or even cathartic – both to readers and themselves. In Always Picked Last, Kevin Kearns recounts his life as a bullied child, and delves into his journey to seek self-confidence, come out on top in life, and use his knowledge to help thousands of others.
Losing his father at a young age, right before the grueling teenage years set in, is hard for anyone, and Kearns fearlessly takes readers through that emotional and painful time in his life. Following that, an extended period of bullying and abuse from the other neighborhood kids is his adolescent destiny, as his smaller size makes him the prime target of their attention. He is an insecure and uncertain child, the butt of every joke, and in those delicate formative years, his psyche is under constant attack.
It isn’t until he finds karate, and the joy that comes with putting on his gi every Wednesday, that his life begins to turn around. Martial arts is initially his way of fighting back, but the true philosophy of martial arts begins to change Kevin, and sets him on the path he would follow for the rest of his life. He experiences isolation and loneliness at a very young age, along with the feeling of being ignored or dismissed by his peers; those memories are recounted in brutal detail, and Kearns’ passion bleeds through on the page. This isn’t simply a retelling of a “Karate Kid”-style plot; the author reveals his moments of weakness and failures, the disappointment in his mother’s eyes, and his occasionally poor choices in making friends. This imperfection and introspection of the story’s “hero” makes it all the more powerful.
More than a memoir, the book contains thoughtful, and at times philosophical, reflections on bullying, childhood, parenting, growth and personal improvement. Kearns has a strong sense of self-awareness, but also recognizes the universality of his experience, so he uses his story as a conduit for inspiration and the self-improvement of others. He advises against the tempting numbness of alcohol, the false confidence that can be derived from physical strength, and the dangers of judging others at face value. Whether or not his individual story appeals to each reader, the wisdom that this man has gained over his life is on full display.
The message of Always Picked Last is powerful and the narrative is engaging and relatable. Kevin Kearns does an excellent job of bridging the gap between personal reflection and accessible wisdom, making this a worthwhile read in every way.
A Note From Coach Kevin Kearns
Thank you for picking up this book. It means that you are either being bullied yourself, or you know someone who is being bullied. The one thing I really hope you walk away with after reading is it’s not you it’s them. Life can be a challenge and sometimes it’s harder than at other times. You may never be totally prepared for some of life’s toughest challenges however, you will be ready enough and you will certainly survive as I did. —Kevin Kearns